Jacob L. Goodson
This issue of the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning (JSR) has been a long time coming. We have published only one issue (December 2020) since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in January 2020, and we have experienced several changes within the scriptural reasoning community during that time. The contributors to this issue have displayed great patience as publication has been postponed on several occasions, and I am happy to finally present to our readers four pieces worthy of your attention and time.
In the first part, we have two essays that further scholarly reflection on the nature and purpose of scripture. In “Genesis Rabbah as Scripture: Testing the Bounds of Theory, Text, and Event,” Ryan Quandt questions what it means to consider certain texts ‘scripture’. He concludes his argument with a list of how his theory might impact those who practice scriptural reasoning: “(i) a text taken as scripture differs from the same text that is not taken as scripture (they are not the same object); (ii) a text taken as scripture is only partially so when divorced from the practices, events, and circumstances that make it scripture for a community; (iii) an otherwise identical text scripturalized according to different practices, events, and circumstances is not the same scripture for two (or more) communities; (iv) scriptural reasoning (with caveats) may in fact be a scripturalizing practice for a given community. A benefit of scriptural reasoning, on this theory, is that in a diverse religious setting, everyone must navigate the distinction between adherent and outsider by at least recognizing inherent beliefs and enactments of a (non-public) revelatory event, as well as think about them apart from such a communally-staked event. This requires the courage to risk the meaning of scripture.” Not all readers will agree with Quandt’s proposed theory, but the questions he raises remain significant for scholars within biblical studies and for those who practice scriptural reasoning.
The second essay begins with an account of life at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In “Hearing the Words: From Devotional Practice to Ethical Living,” Claire Partlow makes the case that the pandemic provides an opportunity to understand the character of Moses in fresh and new ways. In particular, she argues, “Moses’s words to the Israelites as they were about to exit the wilderness and enter the Promised Land offer a context in which to view our pandemic isolation as an opportunity rather than as an encumbrance and, hopefully, as a foundation for establishing an ethical framework for life both within and without our household’s walls.” She refers to words found in chapters 6 and 11 of Deuteronomy, and she develops her argument in terms of how one of the purposes of scripture involves cultivating practices that contribute to living more ethical lives.
In the second part of the issue, three authors attempt to do—to practice—scriptural reasoning (SR) without being in the same room together. The pandemic afforded an opportunity for scholars to try new techniques through Zoom and other virtual platforms. Doaa M. Baumi, Elena Dini, and Miriam Feldmann Kaye chose to practice SR together and then offer reflections on what SR through Zoom feels and looks like. I find their reflections brilliant and insightful, and I hope that they inspire other readers of this journal to practice virtual SR!
The final part of this issue was intended to be its own special issue on animal ethics at some point. Upon reading Geoffrey Claussen’s critical and in-depth response to Aaron Gross’s The Question of the Animal and Religion, however, I decided that Claussen’s piece can stand alone. Readers do not need to be familiar with Gross’s The Question of the Animal and Religion in order to comprehend Claussen’s engagement with the book, as Claussen does explains and summarizes the book in great detail. The result of Claussen’s engagement with Gross’s The Question of the Animal and Religion, I believe, is that scriptural reasoning seems to form us in certain ways that lead to novel and wise frameworks for thinking about animals.
I became the General Editor of the JSR in 2008, and I published my first issue in January 2009. During that time, I have attempted to continue and nurture conversations and dialogues that need to take place in order to maintain and sustain the intellectual credibility of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning. The result has been nineteen journal issues with dozens of different voices as contributors. The present issue marks my final issue as General Editor of the JSR, and I feel so much gratitude toward the contributors I have worked with the past fifteen years. This has been a defining journey for me as a scholar, and I will miss the opportunity to envision and shape further issues. There are many reasons (mostly personal but some professional reasons as well) for why now is the right time for me to step down as General Editor of the JSR, but I will continue to be a faithful reader of this excellent journal. Thank you to everyone who has been reading and responding these past fifteen years! Disce ut semper victurus, vive ut cras moriturus.